You’ve prepared, you’ve walked onto the stage, and now you are there doing exactly what you want to be doing.
Are you afraid? Do you feel like Atlas (see picture) holding up the world of the performance entirely on your shoulders and filling yourself with anxiety?
Hopefully the answer is ‘no’. Personally, though, I have gotten scared in the middle of a performance for all sorts of reasons. It’s a lame feeling, but there are ways of moving away from it.
Explore your role.
Though you must not make any big changes once the show is opened, you must go through some rediscovery at every performance. Get involved in this discovery, and try to leave your worries out of it. If you’ve prepared well, then you will respond.
Connect with your cast mates.
If you’ve ever watched “So You Think You Can Dance”, then surely you’ve heard the judges criticize somebody for not connecting to their partner. Performing is less about you alone and more about the relationships unfolding onstage. So make relationships! By doing this, performing becomes a team effort rather than a Atlas-like struggle.
Do Something with your Audience
Begin developing your audience strategy and continue to develop it with every performance. Orson Welles had a fascinating outlook on audiences (thanks to Opera Chic for finding this clip):
Audiences, in the real sense of the word, are disappearing. There are almost none left. It’s an endangered species…This isn’t an audience here (referring to studio audience). No, no, no, wonderful lovely people. And we’re so grateful for you, but you’re not an audience; you got in free. And not only did you get in free, but you know as does every studio audience that you are not here to do anything except be a member of the cast and help us look good. Seriously, have you ever seen a television show where the audience booed and hissed or refused to applaud? It’s always a big hit on television isn’t it? People that come to the show know that they’re part of the cast and have to help us not to look ridiculous. Our real audience is two or three people in a living room scattered all over the place, but that isn’t a real audience.
An audience is a big many-headed-beast crouching out there in the darkness waiting to eat us up or love us or whatever, and it must be either seduced or tamed or raped or whatever, and it must be dealt with because anybody who deals with a real audience as I have — my goodness, think how long I’ve been in show business… I’ve been hissed and booed, I’ve had things thrown at me– until you’ve had that experience, you don’t understand what dealing with an audience is.
So what will you do? Try something and it might work. At the very least it gets you active, which should make you less afraid.
Focus on something small
If you get flustered, try concentrating on something small that’s on stage and then slowly widen your attention. Focus on your breathing. Focus on your cast members. Just find something to focus on, and if your mind wanders then bring it back again and again, until it begins to work for you.
After all, this is what you claim to love.
Accept that you might be afraid.
Use it. It is fuel that you normally don’t have. If you’re afraid, then treat it like gasoline and use your dedication as a match to perform real energy.
Have you ever gotten totally frightened during a show? If so, what did you do? How did it affect your enjoyment of performing?